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Your thoughts on Jaco Pastorius' "Crisis" from "Word of Mouth":

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Blackbird, Oct 1, 2005.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Y'know, if there's one thing we don't do enough here in "Miscellaneous" (Or TB for that matter) is discuss specfic tunes. I think most people shy away from these topics because they don't know where to post it, wondering if a thread should go in "General instruction" or "Recordings". There are a lot of things we can discuss about songs that really don't relate to either forum, so I propose we discuss them here! :hyper:

    For a start, I'd really like to know if anyone here has had any opinions or insight into Jaco's most bewildering composition, Crisis, the opening track of his Word of MouthCD. It was my introduction to him, as I bought Word of Mouth and Invitation on the same day. It was my freakiest musical introduction ever.

    I'm listening to it right now. It's intriguing, but it makes me anxious and I don't know about you, but I don't exactly go around looking to buy music that makes me feel that way. This tune is definitely something.

    For those who haven't heard it, Jaco plays this relentless stream of sixteenth notes and the background grooves in a sort of steady chaos, the hi-hat keeps the pulse, while drums and piano play melodic figures here and there under (in my opinion) improvised sax and flute lines that intertwine. Does anyone think Jaco notated this? I doubt it. Next time a newbie posts a "Jaco: what's the big deal?" thread, I'm just gonna say "Listen to Crisis".

    Another thing that gets me is that, after all this relentless chaos, I feel myself being soothed by one of Jaco's most beautifully arranged and soulful compositions, Three Views of a Secret, which I think is the most beautiful think Jaco ever wrote. (I think it's arguably better than anything Zawinul ever wrote, but I'm biased and it's not a competition.)

    Back to Crisis: Does anyone else think this is an ominous title? You know, Jaco being troubled by bipolar disorder and all, are "Crisis" and "Three Views of a Secret" reflective of Jaco's different moods? At this stage of his life, he was still pretty together. He must have known something was askew, though. Gifted people have demons and sometimes gifted people feel that they can't have one without the other.

    So, again, what are your thoughts on "Crisis"? Has anyone tried to transcribe that bassline? is there any coherence to it?

  2. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    It's a hell of a bassline- I haven't even thougth about trying to learn it. It doesn't involve all the hopping around of Teen Town or Donna Lee, but it's just so steady and intense...

    I think the title suits the music well. Random catastrophic events happening over a steady stream of anxiety with an uncertain outcome. The bassline is very anxious. It's driving so hard to get to somewhere but it doesn't know where to go. When I hear it I picture someone driving in one of those disaster movies and trying different turns to get out of the way of some roadblock and barely making it.

    I doubt it had much to do with his inner workings...it sounds like he had a certain feel in his head and it turned into that song. All of the songs on Word of Mouth have a certain character to them...an implied feel. While I often enjoy listening to his debut disc more often, most of the songs on it (with the exception of PoT) sound like, well, jazz tunes. They may be in different styles, but the musicianship in the songs is the underlying focus. Word of Mouth seems to let the feel and personality of the songs take precedence over the musicianship. One minute you're in the ultra-tense feel of "Crisis," and then you're like, "Hey, I'm on a tropical island getting drunk!" with "John and Mary."

    It's own of those albums I own that I know I should listen to more often.

    Oh, and maybe the reason we don't discuss specific tunes more often in Misc. is because we're supposed to be done in the Recordings forum ;):D
  3. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Good post Brian. I want to read it a couple more times to get inside what you're saying, but I wanted to answer to that right now.

    The definition of the Recordings forum is taken too literally. Usually discussions there are about albums as a whole, not a specific cut.

    Besides, we're not talking about the recording. We're talking about the music itself. ;)
  4. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Didn't crisis involve recording musicians all over the states and when recording certain players, like, say the horns, he would fade in other players that he recorded a week earlier, like strings or whatever to surprise them and capture their reaction?

    I remember reading something like that at least. Very fun thing to do
  5. I bought Word of Mouth on tape back in '92. I remember Crisis making me uncomfortable. But I was 17 and still a developing musician, so I didn't fully understand what was going on. As my CD collection has grown over the years, sadly my old tapes have been lost or broken. I'd probably have a different attitude now. Even if my opinion was the same, I think it is important for art to make you feel uncomfortable sometimes.
  6. fenderx55


    Jan 15, 2005
    i didn't finish reading the rest of the posts, but i'm listening to it right now through good headphones, at 1:08ish a train horn comes in, which seems to be a recurring theme in some of his work. Wasn't there a story posted here not so long ago about him sitting in a car with victor bailey (i think) and saying how the train was music.

    if you break down the song it isn't really that disparate, the horn lines are kind of scalar but they deffinetely intertwine and were deffinetly improvised. They probably had chord charts and maybe some parts written out where they knew they wanted it to be in unison (crescendos and breaks and stuff). Can you imagine this being recorded now? they would loop 10 seconds of bass in protools. :scowl:

    Also, its main purpose had to be to create tension and then release it into 3views of a secret. ever seen hi fidelity? "you gotta start off strong and then cool it down." something like that.
  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Not sure where I first read about Jaco's recording technique employed on "Crisis"(fading in & feeding certain already recorded parts to the musician playing live)...maybe an old Guitar Player or Downbeat mag.
    IIRC, "3 Views of a Secret" had Toots overdubbing his part a continent away(tapes flown over to Europe?).

    IMMHO, "Crisis" is a peak into Jaco's 'inner workings'; is it a sonic imprint of what schizophrenia might 'sound' like? That's the way I listen to it after what happened to Jaco in the late '80s.

    In Milkowski's book, he tells the story how Jaco's insistence that "Crisis" be the opening track on his follow-up album burned a few bridges with the Record company.
    They wanted a Fusion album & Jaco delivered some artsy-fartsy esoteric 'out' soundscape/collage.

    IMO, "Crisis" is a heavy piece...one of his best.
  8. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses

    Intense playing from all the musicians on that track. It makes me feel unsettled.
  9. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    A couple of things...

    The "train horn" comes in a 24 seconds in the track. The bass at times sound like a synth, I don't think it was played all the way through, I suspect it's dubbed in.